Sprucelawn seeks council help to counter delays in building new addition

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Concerned about delays, a group of seniors wants the township to help speed up the process to expand their St. Jacobs apartment complex.

Sprucelawn Apartments for Seniors Inc. has applied for an amendment to Woolwich’s official plan as well as a zone change needed to add 28 units to the existing building.  The move would essentially double the size of the complex at 33 Front St., which is currently home to 30 units.

The organization has purchased a neighbouring property for $550,000 to make room for an addition, bought a strip of surplus land from the township and then spent $130,000 to clean up contaminants underneath it, and has spent some $340,000 on land, legal costs and design work. All told, Sprucelawn has invested about a million dollars over the last few years, yet still has no assurances the project can go ahead, board member Laverne Brubacher told township councillors meeting Tuesday night.

In the latest setback, the corporation needs to remediate some salt-contaminated soil under its parking to obtain what’s known as a record of site. That’s expected to cost $28,000, and the bill could grow to $200,000 if the problem is larger than expected.

On top of that, development is on hold pending the resolution of a drainage issue involving the neighbouring millrace. An outlet on the water course needs to be repaired or replaced, raising questions about who’ll pay for the project. It’s likely to involve a cost-sharing arrangement between the township and adjacent property owners, including planned redevelopment for the nearby former Jakobstettel Inn site at 16 Isabella St.

Each new issue has come at a cost in terms of time and money, Brubacher noted, asking whether some of the work could continue even as the problems get resolved.

“Could the mill race problem not be resolved while we’re building?” he asked, adding there’s no timeline for solutions to any of the issues. “Is it months or years?”

Sprucelawn’s plight met with sympathy from Coun. Murray Martin, who agreed the millrace repairs could be resolved concurrently with some progress at the housing project.

Likewise, the remaining soil remediation could be done at the time of construction, rather the beforehand, he argued.

“You finish one thing, and another roadblock shows up.”

But senior township planner Jeremy Vink pointed out that the Region of Waterloo is demanding that the parking lots record of site – land on which the addition is to be built – before a zone change can be granted.

In response to Coun. Larry Shantz’s inquiry about a holding provision, Vink said the township could do that, but it would not satisfy the region such that construction could go ahead.

Sprucelawn has invested about a million dollars …, yet still has no assurances the project can go ahead, board member Laverne Brubacher told township councillors meeting Tuesday night.

“We’re caught up in a process,” he said, adding the group may need to find an alternative with the region.

In a similar vein, the millrace drainage problem involves many stakeholders, and the township has to consult them on any potential solutions.

For Brubacher, the goal right now is to clear the way for some progress to be made, perhaps by getting the zoning in place what would allow Sprucelawn to pursue funding and move ahead with planning and design. Actual construction is likely at least a year away.

The planning application looks to rezone the property from residential medium density (R-3) to residential multiple with design guidelines (R-7A). The site-specific provisions for the 1.5-acre property include reducing the required lot frontage from 36.5 metres to approximately 33.5 metres; reducing the required northerly side yard setback from 7.5 metres to approximately 4.0 metres; and retaining the existing reduced parking of 11 spaces.

Construction is expected to cost $6.5 to $7 million.

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